Saturday, July 19, 2014

Schizophrenic Attack

The voices command Malachi to the phone
A dozen times a day he listens for a dial tone
Before punching in a number he knows by rote
To speak to Helen and from the Bible quote

Retired from Mental Health, she is the oddball
Her arthritic hands still pick up when consumers call
She's the only one who will listen to Malachi ramble
As he tries to free himself from internal bramble

Schizophrenia is attracted to Helen's Christianity
And Malachi tells her of angels and demonic insanity
Anointed by Jesus, Malachi fights against Lucifer's reign
And the evil minions who gorge on the tissues of his brain

They claw and tear and screech inside his head
And torment him with visions of the walking dead
Until angels move in as cerebral boarders
And whisper the righteous details of God's Holy Orders

They say he must throw away all his food and regroup
He is to fill his cupboards with 200 cans of tomato soup
In Blessed Sacrament he will take two cans a day
And with this ordinance the wicked voices will go away

Helen observes the pitch and pull of Malachi 's thoughts
As he bounces from fatuous laughter to conspiracy plots
She rocks in her recliner sipping tea until Malachi is done
And then says, "Thank you for calling; goodbye now my son."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Do not pity me

There is a woman around town I see,
Who turned and said, "Don't pity me."
With that she retreated in gait and in mind,
Pushing a baby carriage with garbage to find.

Her hunchback tells of a relentless quest,
Beginning near her daughter who lay in eternal rest.
Burned alive 30 years ago at the age of ten,
The woman blames herself now as she did back then.

The need to keep the gravesite clean,
Began to spread as a cancer unseen.
Fed by guilt and neglected remorse,
Compulsion driven by malignant force.

Soon keeping the grave free of debris was not enough,
Garbage tormented her from the city center to the eastern bluff.
The woman spent her days picking trash up all over the place,
Before withdrawing to her cats and decrepit home base.

Vicious rumors spread throughout the town,
People pointed, threw stones and pushed her down.
With pity I watched as teenagers approached her en masse,
And a stone hit her head as she continued to dig through the grass.

She didn’t seem to notice and no one else gave the scene much heed,
Except for me as I cried out can’t you see you’ve made this poor woman bleed!?
They only laughed and turned on me then, too;
That's when the woman looked at me with pity and asked now what are you going to do?

The Compassionate Nurse

Mary was a nurse
A long time ago.
Compassion was always
Her bittersweet foe.

Her conscience worked overtime
On Extended Care,
When she came upon an
Old woman in a wheelchair.

Someone had placed
The elder facing a wall,
As if she was not even in
The wheelchair at all.

The room was filled
With a sorrowful sound,
Like a whimpering dog
Kicked to the ground.

Mary went to see
What she could do,
And leaned in close,
To ask, "Can I help you?"

The old lady mumbled
Her terrible plea,
Noticing Mary she said,
"Please just kill me.”

Mary replied, "I can’t do that,
But I can do this,”
And hugged the woman long and tight,
Before giving both cheeks a kiss.

The old lady’s eyes,
Brimmed over with tears;
No one had touched her,
So gently in all her aging years.

Creative Abuse

My creativity inspires,
And then bullies with doubt.
It pushes my brush stroke,
And forces images out.

It schemes with charcoal,
Graphite and oil paint.
It purges scenes,
Both surreal and quaint.

It spews typed font,
Moves the flow of ink.
It expounds fabrications,
Before I can pause and think.

But when the canvas has dried,
And the draft has been saved,
My creativity scoffs –
Its responsibility waived.

Why that color?
Why that word?
What were you thinking?
You're trite and absurd.

The abuse becomes too much,
Until from creativity I retreat.
But eventually it beckons me once again,
With its encouraging deceit.

What Inspires Me

I would like to say I am inspired
By the glistening morning dew,
Chirping birds, rainbows,
And skies of brilliant blue.

Snowcapped mountainous ranges,
Perseverance, forgiveness and love;
I appreciate and am thankful for the
Beauties of life and the stars above.

But the morbid truth of
What inspires me,
Is the suffering, pain,
And injustice I see.

It suppresses joy,
Fuels outrage,
And forces me on
A creative rampage.

The goodness in the world
I have no urge to explore.
For that I have faith,
And need nothing more.

It is the reprehensible
That spurs me to create,
If only to release me
Of my melancholic state.

How does one human being,
Strike another to the ground,
Bludgeon them to death with,
The remains never to be found?

How can adults abuse children,
And be aroused by that fear?
Force acts against their will,
When their pain is so clear?

How can people torture whimpering
Animals, handicapped and the elderly,
With trauma on their faces as obvious,
As the atrociousness of such cruelty?

I would rather dwell on laughter,
And the broad ocean expanse,
But those things are taken care of,
They do not need a moral stance.

I am thus inspired by what
Is tragic and sad;
It moves me to canvas,
Pen and writing pad.

The Leaves Deserve to Fall

It's been a delirious spring,
An arduous summer –
The leaves deserve to fall.
They tease the ground with,
A slow, wayward flutter,
As if ignoring Autumn's call.

But there's no urgency,
As they enjoy their descent,
Riding a carefree gust of wind.
The leaves are still alive
In shades of scarlet and fire,
And not quite ready to rescind.

But they're still wise,
To where they're headed –
No denial exists here.
Falling leaves will eventually
Settle in an earthy grave,
As the early frosts appear.

It's a destined transition
To glide from the trees,
And land to decompose –
To nourish future life,
Born anew in the valleys,
Mountains and meadows.

And when the time comes to
Slip from that Great Oak,
I hope to go like the falling leaves,
Blowing in the wind,
Carried with friends,
Along a peaceful breeze.

The Fall of my Life

It's the fall of my life and the leaves are descending,
Summer is done and the winter is pending.
The air has a bite and daffodils are a thing of the past,
I miss those warm, lazy days but know they never last.

Memories of sweet blossoms, hot sun and new greenery,
Brilliant landscapes alive with potential in lush scenery,
All replaced by brooding clouds in shades of grey,
And the fire hues of autumn in the process of decay.

Seasonal rain goes on for days without restraint,
Before surrendering to fog, misty and faint.
Then the overcast skies open and pour torrential rage –
The days become shorter and the wind begins its rampage.

But when clouds part and the moon chases the sun from the sky,
And the ponderous stars twinkle clearly in heavens up high,
September's equinox is prime harvest time before a great rest,
And the fiery richness of creativity finally showcases its best.

Accidental Beachcomber

Do you remember last summer on the coast,
When I tripped and fell fully dressed in the sea?
As if the rising tide with which we were engrossed,
Had surged forth like an unseen shark to swallow me.

We were on the beach watching a playful otter,
In our sweaters and jeans because it was cold.
And we skipped smooth flat rocks across the water,
While in the distance crab and fishing boats trolled.

We complained of the confused northern weather,
And decided climate change must be to blame.
And as you went to pick up an eagle feather,
I slipped on some seaweed and cried out your name.

But before you could stand up and look,
I hurdled forward again and again,
And screamed as I impaled a barnacled hook,
Like some accidental sportsman in pain.

I was already submerged a few feet out,
By the time you saw me gasping for air.
You shook with laughter so hard you could barely shout,
"What the hell are you doing out there?!"

When I finally found my footing and emerged,
Dripping like a screeching monster from the sea,
Out of the clear blue sky a seagull converged,
And to your great delight landed atop of me.

My outrage over your amusement and joy,
Only encouraged more of your snorts of glee.
And as I jumped around to make the bird deploy,
You wet your pants as I slipped right back into the sea.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hippie Chick with a Guitar

She played her guitar with dirty nails,
And the scent of patchouli in the air.
Hemp and jade hung from her neck,
And daises were woven through her hair.

Anything that moved with purpose,
Stopped to watch before passing by,
From people on the sidewalk,
To cars on the street, to birds in the sky;

All enchanted more by the beauty,
Of what they saw than of what they heard,
As she skillfully plucked her strings –
So serene and self-assured.

She closed her eyes and smiled,
Like she knew something they did not,
All the while performing her magic,
For anyone within earshot.

Her skin sparkled from salt crystals
That still clung to her from the day before,
When she set up on a seawall to perform
In front of a breezy ocean shore.

Sometimes she sang her notes off cue,
And other times she hummed.
But no matter what she did, with confidence
She always, always strummed.

The crowd she drew made judgment calls
That left them feeling on edge,
As if it was they and not she, the mad one,
Who would one day end up on some ledge.

For she was the one who entertained for pennies,
And made her home on the street.
And it was she who collected money,
In an old tweed case left open at her feet.

But she didn’t care about her destitution,
Or where she was going so why should they?
Move along with your sanctimony,
And leave this free spirit to play!

And play is what she did until her voice was hoarse,
And her fingers bled.
Then like a far off rolling tide she and her music
Faded into a setting sun of fiery red.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Emotionally Blunted Conversationalist

 “No one will ever love me.”

Fern’s soft-spoken words startled me out of our presently shared dullness. I, however, had no urge to reassure her that it wasn’t true because I too couldn’t fathom such a preposterous notion – no one would ever love me either. The difference was that I didn’t care, or at least that’s what my emotional blunting told me, and Fern did.

It bothered her a lot, but my head was too battle-weary to offer solace to Fern, and Fern was too accustomed to rejection to be affected by my lack of response, so we continued to sit there in silence.

The TV was on but muted and stacks of mostly unread magazines with titles such as BP Canada, Psychology Today and SZ Magazine were fanned out on the coffee table in front of us. My partially read copies of An Unquiet Mind, Catcher in the Rye, God is Not Great and a paperback New King James version of the Holy Bible, along with a journal and a selection of pens were also sitting there unused, as indifferent witnesses to my unfulfilled resolve.

As far as I could ascertain, of the six patients in the 10-bed psychiatric ward we found ourselves, I was the only one who still had enough drug-spared attention span necessary to read more than a paragraph, watch more than 6 minutes of anything on television, or listen to more than 2 minutes of another human being speaking.

This didn’t make me better than anyone else there of course, but the novelty of the place combined with my relative lucidity compared to their frequent flyer status and drugged lethargy did make me feel bored and lonely, which is a kind of hell for me, i.e. being bored when there are actually things I could be doing and feeling lonely when technically I’m not alone.

When I was a kid, if I ever complained of being bored, as kids do, I would be told only boring people get bored. In other words, it was NOT okay to be bored and you were NOT okay if you were bored, and if you are bored, you better keep that shit to yourself.

So I try to keep that shit to myself even now as an aging adult, and even as I waited out my 4-day stay in a place I only temporarily belonged, with the broken-winged Fern often by my side. My controlled silence was only made possible by the meds they gave me. It was the only way I could sleep, and with adequate sleep I was finally able to control the diurnal rage that relentlessly simmered under my skin and the storm that constantly threatened to overtake my mind and spill out of my mouth.

In the preceding months, I had hardly slept at all, perhaps a few hours at a time, which progressively got worse until the days immediately before my descent into madness when I could not sleep at all, not even for 5 minutes.  
When insomnia gets that severe, it catches up to you like a cheetah with a one-track mind overrunning a disoriented gazelle, and you’re the gazelle with your throat being ripped out as you’re eaten alive.

Everything takes on a surreal quality when you choke on your own illusionary blood like that, and mania fights to dance with a melancholy that wants to be left alone to die in its dark solitude, not because you want to die, but because you want the demons that have taken possession of your insomniac mind – the ones that will not allow you to rest – to die.

As I sat there beside the love-forsaken Fern, it occurred to me that the demons inside my head seemed to be comatose for the time being and I felt an unfamiliar spark of relief – of hope. Maybe I could stop rationing my rage. Maybe it was sleeping with my demons, or better yet dead, and there was nothing left to ration. Maybe I could start talking reasonably again.

Inspired, I turned to Fern to test the waters and generously offered, with my usual negative spin, “It could be worse – you could be a dormata and Potato Paul could love you, and believe me you DO NOT want a potato paul to love you. It’s a burden, a life sentence; we’re both better off alone”.

Fern, pleased to have some unanticipated attention, straightened from her hunched position, pushed her Coke-bottle glasses up from the tip of her nose and giggled. She claimed she’d never heard of a potato paul before or of a dormata and wanted an explanation.

I attempted to explain what seemed to me self-explanatory, but Fern lost her animation about as quickly as it had been ignited and I stopped talking midsentence. She didn’t notice.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Spectacle of Choice

There is a menu of choice in a restaurant of spectacle and freewill. There is poverty, degradation, addiction, insanity, deserved suffering and sin punishable by eternal hell. They – the consumers of spectacle and partakers of freewill – drive down the garbage strewn streets of the East Side, as if they are sauntering down the popcorn littered aisles of a movie theater.

The shows are tragic, satirical, alluring, perverse, deserving of contempt and ridicule — the choice is up to the spectator. The unwitting players are the consequence of amusement. They dress in spandex or torn denim and have scabbed, ruddy complexions. They need money, but the spectators deal strictly in Monopoly funds.

This elitist audience falsely propositions the indigent and then laughs with windblown freedom in the wake of desperation. Their Mustang low-profile wheels carelessly whiz by the prostitutes and beggars; the psychotic and the delusional. Reckless hierarchy paralleled by the consequences of recklessness. Laughter echoed by exquisite madness.

"Hey Mister, ya need a hand?!"

More laughter – sadistic laughter.

The veteran amputee wearily looks up in time to see the blur of gel-tipped streaks and tanned, steroid-pumped biceps — a lost limp a found treasure of conviviality.

A penny hits a woman in stilettos like a hard flick. They assume she’s a hooker and therefore dispensable.

Penny for your thoughts? More laughter.

She trips and looks up angrily. The kids drive by celebrating as usual — a show for them, but for her the painful sting of an unanticipated projectile.

George caresses his brown paper bag, alcohol-stained along the edges. He doesn't care about anything as he stumbles along in drunken oblivion. He vaguely hears the celebration – the hoots and hollering, and he lets out a half-hearted, slurred "yahoo" in response.

He has financial restitution tucked into his boot from the government man and lawyer guy. He doesn't remember their names, but he recalls the memories they lured out of the deep crevices of his pillaged mind and quickly shakes his head. He clutches his paper bag and takes a big chug. This is why his cash is almost gone – he spends it chasing those unwanted recollections with whisky as if it’s his choice, as if he has any control over his tremulous hands or the relentless voice in his head demanding he drink.

Blood money is finite though and memories are until death do you part. Without the booze, those once repressed memories will no longer be biting at his heels – they’ll be eating him alive and wolfing him down in agonizing bits.

Money might buy his poison, but it doesn't buy away the priests with their molesting hands or the nuns with their generous switches. He hears his great grandmother's language from the grave, and they tell him he’s schizophrenic. He doesn't understand his choices, but he is told he has some.

Sherry isn't even 16 yet and she doesn't understand her choices, either. She robotically injects another nearly collapsed vein. Her mother died yesterday — just another overdosed junkie. Deado-stinko as Sherry’s barfly stepfather would say.

Sherry will miss her mother – she taught her every trick she knew. Too bad she never knew about choices.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

When Hell Freezes over - a hike with Ralph

We took Ralph on a 9 km hike around Frame Lake which was as much an exercise in patience as it was in physical health. Ralph, who is technically still a puppy, was very curious about everything and everyone we encountered, and this curiosity, I’m sorry to say, had a weird kind of incendiary ripple effect on Jenna and me.

Here we are at the beginning of the hike, having already started a battle of wits mainly involving whose fault it was that Ralph behaved the way he behaved as if either of us had any control in the situation whatsoever. We however were determined to "enjoy" the next couple of hours and donned fake grimace-like smiles long enough to snap a picture for posterity.

But before the hike could even start we first had to get into Jenna’s truck, with peculiar problems of its own, and take a bit of a drive.

I looked at Jenna doubtfully with this unwelcomed news and asked, “Have you ever even driven with Ralph? How do we know he won’t go wild in the cab of the truck and cause us to get into an accident?”

Jenna gave me her signature condescending look, as if my question was completely preposterous and Ralph was the best behaved canine on the planet. She then reassured me that she had driven with Ralph before and she was QUITE sure he would be fine. I just had to hold onto his leash as he obediently sat by my feet since Jenna would be the one driving.

This whole scenario was RIPE with potential for controversy, but that was only acknowledged in hindsight. In the moment and during the extensive discussion phase of our plan, we were too wrapped up in combat to give much thought to consequences. Besides, we secretly enjoy our mutual pugnacity – love might be the emotion that keeps us close, but friction is the mechanism that keeps our mother/daughter relationship interesting.

So with our plan set, we put Ralph on his last leash, the only one left that he hadn’t chewed in half, and tried to get him in the truck. He would not cooperate. I got up in the seat and tried to gently pull Ralph in after me, but he stubbornly refused to budge. Jenna just sat there in the driver’s seat urging ME to “hurry up”.

With sweat beginning to form on my brow I snapped my head in her direction and demanded some help because Ralph, COULDN’T SHE SEE, was NOT getting in the truck despite my urging. Finally Jenna reluctantly got out of the driver’s side and came around to help. It took both of us in the end to hoist him into the truck.

“Unbelievable,” I muttered, “if this is any indication of the next few hours I think we are in for some troubled times ahead!”

Already Ralph was trying to get up on the seat in between eating an empty Tim Horton’s coffee cup that had fallen on the floor. When he was done with the cup, he moved onto a container of antibacterial wipes before turning his attention to my shoe laces.

By the time we reached our destination he was actively biting me, breaking skin on my hand at one point, while simultaneously biting his leash with me yelling at Jenna that we were about to lose the last leash! She as was fast becoming her habit, blamed me, saying I was letting him chew the leash on purpose to which I screamed, “I’m sitting right here beside you and you can SEE the hell I’m being put through and STILL you blame me?! There’s no controlling him!”

All she did was snicker as she told me not to yell, which was infuriating because as soon as it’s her having to deal with her nightmare dog, SHE’S the one yelling. So with Jenna thinking it’s hilarious and me about to have a heart attack trying to get Ralph under control, he managed to gnaw his way clean through the leash. I informed Jenna of this unfortunate turn of events while screaming at Ralph to stop biting me. “Jenna, I’m going to need a rabies shot now because of your psycho dog!”

Jenna had no concern for my injuries and instead got mad at me for Ralph ruining yet another leash. It wasn’t so funny now that she had to buy a new leash in a place where the price of everything is tripled.

“You act as if I could have stopped him! There’s NO stopping him, Jenna! He does whatever he wants!”

“That’s because you let him,” Jenna said through gritted teeth.

“Well, we have to get another leash now if we’re still going on this stupid hike”.

So we did, arguing the entire time, much to Jenna’s embarrassment as there were other shoppers in the pet store who could obviously hear our bickering. 

By the time we reached the start of the trail I was covered head to toe in dog hair which was causing me to sneeze. Jenna callously laughed AGAIN at my misery until I pointed out the water bottle she was drinking from was also covered in dog hair.

The commotion she caused dancing around, sputtering dog hair out of her mouth was perfect revenge and it was my turn to laugh. We were not happy with one another AT ALL at this juncture and the hike hadn’t even started yet.

Then we were off, but first I made sure she understood there was NO WAY I was EVER holding that leash. She would have to do ALL the dog walking herself. I was merely there for emotional support.

“Emotional support! I’m more likely to get emotional support from a random duck paddling around on the lake than I am from you!”

“So rude. I’m your mother and will give you all the support you could possibly need”. Then we both laughed. So ridiculous.

View of icy Frame Lake near the beginning of the trail. Beautiful!

As the hike went on with the normal bickering one might expect, we also began to notice that although Ralph continued to pull on the leash and on at least two occasions managed to break free from Jenna’s “tight” grip and charge at a couple people along the trail, he was actually for the most part very friendly to passerbys including other dogs.

We did, believe it or not, have fun in between minor arguments about Jenna obsessing over how her runners were getting dirty, for example, or how when I expressed one of my various discomforts my voice tended to get too loud for Jenna’s liking, causing her to shush me with such intensity that spit came flying out of her mouth landing on my face.

Another view of Frame Lake from a different part of the trail.

Along the trail there were of course points of interest, and I was surprised that in the midst of all that wilderness, as well as the mild animosity that alternated with maniacal laughter between daughter and mother, I came across some beautiful prose to admire. I love this line: "The rock of the Canadian Shield contributes a wild and desolate quality to the land; the boreal forest attempts to tame it".

By the time we finally emerged from the trail and were on our way home, our mood was much improved. And it was with this improved mood that we were approached by a gaggle of 4 year olds outside Jenna’s apartment. They were totally smitten with Ralph and to our surprise Ralph reciprocated their fondness by licking them, wagging his tail and sitting still so they could pet him.


The swarm of children that gathered around Jenna and Ralph were so taken with the entire situation that even as Jenna bid them farewell they refused to let the moment pass and followed her. 

She looked like the Pied Piper, but instead of luring rodents with a tune she attracted the favor of these adorable children with the lure of Ralph.

At the end of what should have taken under 2 hours but took more like 6, we had a new-found likeness for Ralph. When we got home he was docile and sweet. 

The next morning things were back to normal when I let him out of his pen and the first thing he did was make a mad dash for the kitchen, jump up on the kitchen counter and knock a pot of coffee on the floor. The loud bang brought Jenna running, all blurry eyed from sleep. And the fight was back on.